Brian Huynh, SEAS ’13, spent 40 minutes waiting for packages after trying to use the package center’s new kiosk system last week. He had to leave before receiving his packages, so he tried again early this week. This time, he waited an hour and 15 minutes, and still didn’t get his packages.
The package center’s new kiosk system—in which students can swipe their Columbia ID cards at kiosks and wait for their packages to be brought out to them, rather than wait in the regular line—made it harder, not easier, for Huynh to get his mail. On Wednesday, he was waiting for his packages for a third time, and he was frustrated.
“I swiped in last week and this week,” Huynh said. “The packages are here, but I still can’t get them because apparently I’m not in the system.”
The University installed two kiosks in the lobby of Lerner Hall over the summer in an effort to expedite the package pick-up process for some students. But some students, like Huynh, have reported waiting in the kiosk line—which forms in the narrow hallway outside the package center next to the regular line—for extended periods of time, even as other students who swipe their ID cards at the kiosks are given their packages immediately. Additionally, the wait in the kiosk line has sometimes been longer than the wait in the regular line.
Andrew Arredondo, SEAS ’16, was able to get his package quickly on Wednesday, but he recalled swiping into a kiosk the week before and waiting 40 minutes before receiving his delivery. Still, he believes that the kiosk system has potential.
“I think the kiosk is pretty amazing. I mean, today it worked, and I got it in two minutes,” Arredondo said. “It’s just a gamble—sometimes you get it, and sometimes you don’t.”
Other students have said that the kiosks don’t recognize their ID cards. Colleen McGeehan, CC ’14, decided to try the kiosks Wednesday after waiting in the non-kiosk line for two hours on Monday, but she found that she couldn’t swipe her ID.
“I decided that I would just try it, but it wasn’t working,” McGeehan said. “It said, ‘We can’t read your ID, so talk to a representative.’”
Despite these concerns, administrators say that the kiosk system has reduced wait times in most cases. According to Kristina Hernandez, the director of marketing and communications for Student and Administrative Services, the average turnaround time for kiosk pick-up was seven minutes and 11 seconds on Wednesday, with 456 students receiving 761 packages.
“The package center staff estimates the wait time could be reduced to a little as three minutes if packages are picked up immediately upon request at the kiosk,” Hernandez said in an email.
Hernandez noted that the package center staff has added a late-night shift for processing incoming items. She acknowledged that there has been some congestion in the kiosk line, but she attributed it to students swiping their IDs and not picking up their packages for up to five days.
“Short term, the package center staff is working the lines to ensure students who request package pick-up through the kiosks are queued in a separate line and communicating with students about package pick-up protocol,” she said in an email. “This will help alleviate some of the congestion at the package center.”
Hernandez added that it’s difficult to gauge the kiosk system’s efficiency this year, as there was a 13 percent increase in packages received between Aug. 20 and Sept. 14, relative to last year. The package center is nearing its capacity, she said, and the University is planning to take immediate steps to address this issue.
In the meantime, though, students must decide whether to stick with the regular line or try the kiosk system. For Arredondo, those options aren’t mutually exclusive.
“What I realized is I should just come in, scan at the kiosk, and stand in the other line in case I don’t get called,” he said.